Drenning went to Samford University in Alabama and played for Terry Bowden, son of the first iconic West Virginia coach. Drenning transferred to WVU and played for the Mountaineers’ greatest coach, Don Nehlen.
Then, Drenning moved on to Glenville State, 90 miles south of Morgantown, and became an NAIA All-American QB under a young coach named Rich Rodriguez, who would go on to fame as the Mountaineer coach in the 2000s.
“In West Virginia, you kind of grow up, you have to be thick-skinned,” Drenning said. “Because when you hear about us nationally, invariably it’s something ranking low in this, ranking low in that.”
But along comes West Virginia athletics, winning the Orange Bowl or making the Final Four, and “it makes everybody proud. You really wear it on your sleeve, not as a Mountaineer fan, but as a West Virginian.”
That’s a little bit of the Oklahoma/Grapes of Wrath story from 65 years ago. Sooner football helped change the state’s self-image. Now the Mountaineers are doing the same.
“That’s the kind of culture we have,” Drenning said. “The Mountaineers are one of the things that really bind people together. They see that as an opportunity for us to be at our best, and we don’t get a lot of those opportunities.”
West Virginia long has excelled in the athletic arena. Now the Big 12 offers the Mountaineers the chance to tell that story on an even bigger stage.
Beware the country roads, Big 12. They’re lathered up in West Virginia. For good reason. The Mountaineers punch above their weight.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.
WEST VIRGINIA AT A GLANCE
• Located: Morgantown, W.Va. (metro population 129,709)
• Founded: 1867
• Enrollment: 29,617
• Conference history: Independent 1891-1924, 1928-49, 1968-90; West Virginia Conference 1925-27; Southern Conference 1950-67; Big East 1991-2011.